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Updated: September 29, 2021

World's largest recording label teams with Portland startup MedRhythms on 'prescription music'

MedRhythms co-founders sitting on a bench with leaves on the ground Photo / Jim Neuger MedRhythms co-founders Brian Harris, left, and Owen McCarthy, photographed outside the company's Portland office. Harris is the company's CEO, while McCarthy is the president; both were honored on the 2018 Mainebiz Next List.

Portland-based digital therapeutics startup MedRhythms Inc. is joining forces with Universal Music Group NV, the world's largest music label, to bring "prescription music" to patients for the first time.

The partnership, announced Wednesday, will give MedRhythms access to nearly all of Universal's catalog of millions of songs for the MedRhythms platform, which uses clinical sensors, software and music to help restore function lost to neurologic disease or injury.

"Since our product is based upon the neuroscience of music, and will be approved by the FDA as a prescription-only product, this means that the only way the product will be available to patients is through a prescription from a doctor," Brian Harris, the company's CEO and co-founder, told Mainebiz. "Once we receive FDA approval, we will be the world's first prescription music platform."

Harris, who was a certified music therapist in the growing niche before becoming an entrepreneur, teamed up with Owen McCarthy, who studied biological engineering at the University of Maine and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, to launch MedRhythms in 2015 out of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.

They later moved the company to Portland and currently employ 25 people, with plans for further hires in coming months. Both Harris and McCarthy were honored on the Mainebiz Next List in 2018

The new partnership follows MedRhythms' recent $25 million venture capital fundraising round, and the start of clinical trials for the company's flagship product, a digital therapeutic for chronic stroke patients with walking deficits.

Universal Music, recently spun off by French media conglomerate Vivendi SE, owns the rights to music by artists including the Beatles, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Bob Marley.

Asked about the significance of working with Universal Music, Harris said, "We believe that having patient-preferred music is an important aspect of our product to drive improvements in adherence and clinical outcomes."  

He also noted that Universal Music owns close to half of the world's music covering almost all genres, and that the agreement gives MedRhythms access to to nearly the entire catalog, which consists of millions of songs. 

Shares of Universal Music Group, which has its corporate headquarters in the Netherlands and operational headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., debuted on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange last week. 

Michael Nash, executive vice president of digital strategy at Universal Music, said, "Music has the power to transcend borders, culture and language to connect people and elevate the quality of life around the world. Now, with MedRhythms, we're seeing the power of music harnessed to heal."

Both companies are venturing into new territory with the accord.

"There are many complexities to navigate as it relates to music licensing, especially when the music is being used in such a novel way that has never been done before," Harris said. "It required a significant amount of teamwork and creativity on our side and UMG to create such a meaningful and valuable partnership."

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October 1, 2021

Good luck with licensing music to be used for profit. Licensing fees and tracking of plays. Good Luck.

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